Acelera Startups Documentary about Silicon Valley

About a month ago Cláudio Britto from Acelera Startups paid  a visit at our office in San Franciso.

I recorded an interview with him that will be a part of a documentary about Silicon Valley that he's been working on. 

Great content. Looking forward to see the full movie. You can check out the preview below.

One small observation: wish I had been told that most of the participants would be talking in English, so I would not have given my interview in Portuguese. 

If you don't speak Portuguese, sorry for the inconvenience. 

LinkedIn Passive Aggressiveness

Last week I faced an awkward situation over LinkedIn messages.

One person (which I won't name) was doing one of the most distasteful things in business etiquette. They wanted to meet without communicating the "why" behind the intent and when questioned about it, replied with a passive aggressive tone. Arrogance will never work. 

Most people I know in Silicon Valley have in general 5-7 meetings a day, divided in 30 minutes slots and some buffer for longer encounters.  I personally divide my schedule into maker and manager schedule. Mornings matter a lot, that's when I meditate, cook, exercise and tackle the most important task of the day. I don't like morning meetings because they break my flow. 

Fortunately, I am at a point in my career that I can be selective on meetings. The approach of being default to yes, was wonderful a couple of years ago. It's not functional anymore. 

Think before you send people a note. Ask great questions or explain things like:

  • This is who I am
  • This is what I am working on
  • This is why I would like to meet 
  • Date / Time / Method Suggestion 
  • Provide a way out and be polite

I work hard to be one of the most responsive people on earth. Sometimes I miss control of my inbox, but it does not take more than 1.5 week for me to get back to people. 

This specific person was so aggressive and rude when I kept pushing for the answer to this questions that I feel sorry for the ones that actually pay their organization to do some of those distasteful tours of Silicon Valley. Respect and effectiveness are king. 

 

My First Public Talk in Spanish

For a while I was the only person at SendGrid responsible for growing the company internationally, specially in Latin America. In less than one year with no sales team, we got over 7,000 clients, including Walmart Brazil and Rakuten Brazil. 

Since I was running solo my strategy was a combination of community building, PR, thought leadership and word of mouth while yielding 2 factors. Silicon Valley prestige combined with solid SaaS growth. Basically telling a good story and making us look sexy for the 0.1% of elite founders and investors.

No Back to my First Talk in Spanish  


We hosted an event in Buenos Aires for startups, founders and developers. Our "usual" SendGrid growth Meetup.  Martin Vivas, a major startup connector in Argentina was kind enough to connect us with MSFT Argentina and we setup our event at their fancy Puerto Madero offices. Gracias! 

As you can see I spoke with a recent dislocated shoulder since I had the stupid idea of running a Thought Mudder during my flight connection in LAX. Traveling to 2 countries in Latam, with 36 meetings in 5 days while not being able to raise my arm was a humbling experience. I had to ask for help and assistance for more than 40 people total. It made me more present, focused only on the activities with the highest outputs. 

It turned out bueno. Un Saludo!

Talk Given in October, 2014 at Microsoft Buenos Aires at SendGrid Growth Meetup. To learn more about SendGrid go to sendgrid.com and about Pedro go to pedrosorren.com



5 Cognitive Distortions of People Who Get Stuff Done

I spent a decent amount of time this weekend browsing VCs websites and blogs, trying to learn as much as possible. It was quite interesting. 

By far the simplest and most effective one was Bloomberg's Beta manual (not the website). It's hosted on GitHub as a ReadMe file. It's well written and minimalist. Love it. 

This year I was one of the 300 15' Future Founders and that came as a delightful surprise. 

I found a link to this presentation on their website and am reposting it here. The following slides are a great representation of my personality and of some of the people I respect the most in life. 

Onward and Happy Monday. 

Pedrosorren.com Week in Review #04 (May 3rd - May 10th)

 

I have been failing miserably at having the discipline to send the weekly reviews. So this is another attempt to recreate this habit. Thank you for paying attention and, as always, please reply with interesting insights that you might have. 

#SwiftClasses

Some of you may know that I made the decision to learn how to code and ship a very simple meditation related app before Q3 starts. I've been taking classes twice a week at General Assembly here in San Francisco. 

GA is not a great school. I think my teacher is a great coder, but terrible at teaching. I'd rather have someone that is not a genius engineer but is good with people. The online tutorials combined with the super helpful TAs are a good combo and since it's not a cheap course it gives the necessary discipline to get things done. 

#UdemyCourse 

I am very excited about this side project. Lately, I've been collaborating with Reinaldo Normand, one of my mentors and dear friend. We are doing an online video series about how to move to Silicon Valley as a foreigner. There will be a free, beginners guide and a paid exclusive course for the most advanced folks out there.

If you are a student, entrepreneur or want to come as an executive, fill this survey out. The reception on this has been tremendous and just with the idea we have over 65 students interested in doing the course. 

#Uno

During the past 2 weeks, Uno has not seen any progress. In between work and side projects + GreenCard, it just did not become a priority. 

#Exercising

I gained some weight this past couple of weeks. Not a lot, but it sucks. This week I am back at eating better and exercising. I have already separated my gym clothes for the entire week and after this email will cook most of my meals. 

#500Startups 

Last week I was a keynote at WMD.co. It was the first time I did public speaking for over 400 people in Silicon Valley at a premier conference, and I am happy to say that my slides are the top 5 most accessed after the conference. You can check them out here. 

Have a wonderful week. Meditate, hug people and follow your dreams. 

Onward,

@pedrosorren

 

Man's Search For Meaning Review as a Startup Founder

Recently my close friend Doug Gould recommended a book that I finished about 5 weeks ago. Excellent read. 

I took comprehensive notes, but only now decided to write about it. Man's Search for Meaning is a global best seller and famous for being the book that inspired Tony Robbins to become a coach. 

Purpose and Drive

Viktor Frankl wrote this book during his years at several concentrations camps in Nazi Germany. It's about human nature, coping with suffering, survival, but mostly, it's about finding purpose and coping with adversity, but definitely not a self-help book (nothing against them, by the way). The elements his theory called logo-therapy are great fundamentals for surviving as a founder.

When Nietzsche said "He who has a why can bear with almost any how", he was probably was not thinking about hackers and product builders, but it one can certainly relate.   

My grandfather was my first real mentor. The reason I ended up in tech is mostly due to him and he doesn't even own a smartphone. That said, he always reinforced the importance of skilled knowledge combined with a  fearless attitude. "With that life can take away everything and you would still have enough to rebuild yourself", he used to say. Viktor touches that aspect of the book multiple times, how the ones that survived were the ones that knew that the experience of the camp would serve a purpose. Mentally they never gave up. 

We have so much power, even when we are powerless. Believe me, I've worked for many poor managers in my life and I've always had the choice of either reacting in a positive grateful way (by using my time and focus on other projects) or to be resentful and angry with my current situation.

Entrepreneurs must get used to the "default NO's" from society. We must be built to last. 

There were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.
— Viktor Frankl

When trying to summarize what provides us purpose in life, Frankl listed 3 of the main logo-therapy principals:

1 - Creating a work or doing a deed 

For founders this is probably the easiest one to relate with. Creating something from scratch and seeing it come to life is probably one of the most satisfying things in life. Either when it's an app, service or hardware. I'm sure that musicians get off of that as well (I did when we had our high school band). On a higher ground this is about leaving a legacy in the world, about surpassing our imminent fear of death and becoming immortal trough high impact work. 

2 - By experiencing something or encountering someone

Love. Nothing like feeling appreciated and loved by others. I've recently started a relationship with a very special woman and  although we are many miles away from each other, this immense feeling of joy is there every-time we interact. 

3 - The attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering 

I haven't met anyone in life that has achieved something that is worth doing without some level of pain. Overcoming adversity is all about how you react to what happens in your life. 

Onward. 

Procrastinating Your Own Success

Currently I am in Rio for Carnaval for a very small break with friends, people I care & love. Usually, when you remove yourself from your day to day, the best conclusions come to life. 

During the flight here I had the immense pleasure of sitting right next to a dear friend of mine that recently quit his job at Salesforce and is about to go on a world travel adventure trough Asia. On parts of this trip, he'll finish his program at Tony Robbins coaching university in Bali and will become an advanced certified life coach. 

He is following his purpose with courage. 

We had a pretty deep conversation about where I was in life, how some of my personal friends and acquaintances went to become multi-millionaires entrepreneurs and that I felt a little stuck. 

I've always been a huge proponent of productivity and self-improvement. Thus the 1% better manifesto. But somehow, during our conversation he clearly demonstrated to me how disconnected I was from the "old Pedro" - that started two companies and hustled his way to Silicon Valley as a 1st generation immigrant. 

I've been procrastinating my success for the past 14 months. It's evident, loud and, unfortunately, super extra clear. I am also doing this great 67 Steps from @Tailopez. 

Probably the best thing that he mentions during his entire program is that one of his signatures quotes:

“Everybody wants the good life, but not everybody gets the good life”.
— @tailopez

It's time to earn my success and work harder. Time to get myself out of my comfort zone, follow my purpose and live the dream. 

It won't be easy, but very fun. Onward. 



Untrained Algorithms

This AM, at about six', I felt like checking Facebook. If we've seen each other in the past month and a half, I probably told you that I decided to cut Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for 3.5 months. 

After 1.5 month, I am back on Twitter. After I had lost money on the stock, I was a bit pissed but also find decent value on the platform itself. Even Fabric looks like a very interesting product. 

But then I re-activated my Facebook account. 

I was served only with crap and irrelevant posts on my timeline. It looked like Facebook had about 50 years old because that was the average age of the people I saw on my timeline. 

Posts from a distant uncle, my mom's friends, random people that I don't even recall. There was also some close family things that I was already aware, because with or without Social Media we tend to keep in touch with the ones we care and love. 

Algorithms need to training. Repetition is king. Like losing weight, the more you put effort towards it, the better it gets?

I just don't have any desire to "train Facebook" on my preferences. 

Account deactivated. 

Next Attempt: Instagram. 

 

Great Food and Less Drinking

Today I woke up with a terrible stomachache. Not sure what is going on but if feels terrible and I am assuming that it has to deal with the 3 beers I had last night, with a couple of great friends that were visting from Brazil.

For the first time in a really long time I didn't have any breakfast and had a very light lunch. Definitely revisting my eating and drinking preferences. Better to nurture than hurt my body. 

Let's be present. 

 

Change Management

Growing up is extremely painful. Personally or as a corporation, differences are very little in so many ways.

Currently, at SendGrid,  we are at a stage where there is no more room for lack of excellence.

I was one of the few people that was very supportive and happy when they fired our former CEO (I really like him as person, but not as a leader). 

Regardless, I did not expect that "the grind" was going to get this painful. We've always been too comfortable by having found early product market fit and have developed this toxic culture of being self centric instead of customer centric. 

This past 3 months more than 15 people have left SendGrid (some were also fired) all due to various different reasons, but one thing is certain: we are changing rapidly and that's refreshing to see, but not pleasant to experience. 

I am employee 22. We are almost at 300 people. 

In change management about 35% of the people will churn out. The other 35% will sit and wait and make their decisions after some certainty has developed. I am part of the last 30%, the ones that embrace change and thrive from it. 

Growth rates will slow down, but I am certain that we are building a better company, that is focused on becoming the absolute best email company out there.

I love this @avc tweet about different stages of financing. 

So what are the Series C for? I would say that is the separation between the men and the boys. The time to develop operational excellence, to hit cash flow break even,  to ship a couple of new products that will become profitable lines of business and to develop clear IPO predictability. 

This week I am hoping for a bit more certainty, but things are starting to look like a very fun ride. 

No pain, no gain.